Reflection on Schwartz and Anderson

Through my reading of Schwartz’s “Resistance ad Accommodation in Eighteenth-Century Brazil” and Anderson’s “The Quilombo of Palamares,” I learned about an Ilheus slave revolt in which escaped slaves attempted to bargain for better work and living conditions, and about the remarkable Palamarinos. Although these two works were very interesting–the first giving insight into the specifics of a plantation slave’s life and the second outlining the history and legacy of a fascinating maroon community–neither significantly augmented or altered my knowledge of slave rebellion in Brazil. These two specific events give me little insight into the generality of slave rebellion at the time, especially considering one, if not both of them, seems to be an anomaly. In short, I still have a lot of questions about slave rebellion in Brazil: how common was it? What was the success rate? How many maroon communities existed? How did rebellion fluctuate over the years? What caused the greatest spikes in it? What caused the greatest drops? I’m also especially interested in how slave rebellion in Brazil differed from that in the United States, and would love to explore literature on that subject. I have the general perception that slaves did not escape nearly as frequently in the United States, but I don’t really know and I could be completely wrong.

This has made me consider some of the issues faced by a historian, or even a casual reader of history. It is simply impossible to learn about every single event that occurred in relation to a subject of study. Besides that documentation doesn’t exist for everything, even if it did it would take too long to read it all to be feasibly learnable. But then, how can we possibly understand the whole without understanding the many pieces? It seems like the best option we have is to each study a single piece thoroughly, and then bring it all together as a society to create a patchwork ‘big picture’. However, then we run into the issue of individual historical works being remarkably incomplete or inaccurate in some way, for how can we possibly understand the piece without first understanding the context of the whole? In conclusion, history gives me a headache.

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